Kids in hot cars: How parents can avoid the dangers

, Posted: Fri, June 20 2014 at 3:43 PM, Updated: Fri, June 20 2014 at 3:48 PM

Kids in hot cars: How parents can avoid the dangers

NBC News and The Today Show -- This summer, 13 children have already died after being left alone in sweltering cars. Safety advocates share easy things you can do make sure you don’t forget about your child in the backseat. NBC’s Gabe Gutierrez reports. Video:

Two days before a Georgia dad allegedly left his 22-month-old son in an SUV for seven sweltering hours, a father in Florida was accused of forgetting his 9-month-old daughter in the backseat of his pickup.

Georgia police charged Justin Ross Harris with murder in his son’s tragic death Wednesday, but Florida investigators are still determining whether to bring any charges at all against Steven Lillie.

These similar cases — with potentially far different outcomes — spotlight how not all states and counties choose to aggressively prosecute parents for their deadly actions.

An analysis by one child advocacy group found that of nearly 500 heat-related child fatalities in cars dating from 1968 to 2013, about 60 percent involved a parent or caretaker getting charged.

Another 30 percent of cases had no charges filed, while in the remaining 10 percent, it was unclear what happened.

“There isn’t any rhyme or reason to why it varies from state to state,” said Amber Rollins, a director with, a nonprofit child-safety group. “Even case by case, you never know what’s going to happen.”

Of those arrested and charged in a child’s death, the majority — 60 percent — were ultimately convicted of a crime, such as child abuse, child neglect or negligent homicide.

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